Friday, August 12, 2016

Concert series at Dundee Park a success - By Elizabeth Richards

The summer concert series at Dundee Park had it all – free music performed by local musicians, swimming, a gorgeous setting and plenty of sunshine.  Opening up the park for this free series attracted many visitors who otherwise might not have experienced all that Dundee Park has to offer.  

In an August 5th memo to the town council, assistant town manager Phyllis Moss said, “The Park[s] and Recreation Summer Concert [Series] was a huge success! It was very well attended and it allowed many people to be introduced to Dundee Park for the first time. Kudos to Linda Brooks and the Park [s] and Recreation Advisory Committee for their efforts in pulling this series together.”
Windham Parks and Recreation Director Linda Brooks said she heard a lot of feedback regarding the series encouraging people to visit the park. “That seemed to be one of the biggest benefits of this concert series, the discovery or re-discovery of Dundee Park,” she said.  “It was nice to be able to showcase this really lovely facility that the town owns.”
Attendance at the concerts grew each week, Brooks said, and by the fourth show, which was beloved children’s performer Rick Charette, the unofficial count was over 400 people.  And they didn’t just come by car, Brooks said.  People watched from canoes and kayaks in the water as well. Those who did come by car sometimes ended up parking all the way back at the gate, but Brooks said despite the walk in, everyone was in a good mood. “For the most part families just seemed to take it in and enjoy the whole thing,” she said.
Windham resident Kristen Kelley said she attended the last two concerts in the series, and the only reason she missed the first two was that she didn’t know about them.  “It was very nice to bring dinner and hang out with friends on the last two beautiful Wednesday nights,” she said.  
Kelley and her children particularly enjoyed the Rick Charette show.  “Rick Charette was awesome as usual, and got the kids moving and dancing with him on stage,” she said. “The beach was packed and so was the water, and all the kids seemed to have a blast.”  A highlight for her kids, she added, was being able to take a picture with Charette after the show.  
Free entry to the park for the concerts made the series accessible to all. “We love great, free, family fun,” Kelley said. 
The Parks and Recreation Department increased accessibility for senior citizens by providing van transportation, said Brooks. “The combination of plenty of sun and plenty of shade at Dundee made it really suitable for all ages,” she said. 
Becky Ireland, Director of the Be The Influence Coalition, a Windham-Raymond Collaborative which aims to reduce teen substance use, said that community events like the concert series are important because they build connections outside the home.  “Young people who feel that their community cares about them and who are engaged with family and community activities are less likely to experience a variety of things which can impact their safety and success- such as substance use, violence, problems in school and mental health issues,” she said.
The coalition was represented at all four concerts, displaying their "Teen Brain: Under Construction" educational materials.  “We aim for the community to have consistent information that they can use to help support teens in making healthy choices - after all- they are the future parents, neighbors, and workforce which will help keep our communities strong,” said Ireland. few community organizations stepped forward to run the concession stand at the concerts, including a local dance studio, Boy Scouts and the American Legion Auxiliary.  Brooks said this was a good model that they plan to continue with for next year, encouraging other community organizations to get involved. Though the concessions are a fundraiser for the organizations, “It’s not just about the money, but also to be able to promote what they are all about,” Brooks said.
The committee wants to build upon the success of the series this year in future years, Brooks said.  The four bands were local performers, each with a different style of music.  They plan to follow the same four concert format for next year, Brooks said.
Brooks said the Dundee Park staff did an amazing job, especially on the hot nights when as many people were watching the concerts from the water as from shore. 
“The concert series was an excellent way for diverse community members to come together and enjoy a variety of music in a beautiful place that they otherwise might not think to go to,” said Ireland.  “I heard many people say they had not been to the park in years or had never been but that they plan to come back to enjoy it again soon.”

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